The Knicks In A New Role

The beginning of the regular season allows us to make some…silly predictions, to say the least. If you don’t believe me, look just at last year’s shortened season. This time last season, the Denver Nuggets was being lauded as a finals team, the Philadelphia 76ers looked like one of the best teams in the East, the Celtics were struggling, Indiana was on the verge of a huge season, and we all collectively clamored to view the Los Angeles Clippers, thanks to the increased expectations placed on Blake Griffin, and his new running mate in Chris Paul.

Now, as we fast forward just one year, we seem more of the same. The Memphis Grizzlies, with Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley running rampant, looks like the team that could make some noise in the Western Conference. Indiana, the team that was expected to continue their success, have found themselves struggling to capture victories with Danny Granger on the mend, and while the results are the same, we’ve kept an eye on James Harden in Houston, as well as Andre Iguodala in Denver. Other than the Spurs remarkable start this season, the league has new teams in the same key roles.
Who are the teams making a strong start? In the West, the Golden State Warriors have made noise with their hot start to the season. Stephen Curry has remained healthy, Harrison Barnes looks very effective on the offensive side of the ball, and the combination of David Lee and Carl Landry at power forward has punished opponents. With Andrew Bogut still on the mend, the Warriors have their center position lacking, but that hasn’t stop rookie Festus Ezeli from starting, and giving Golden State valuable minutes as a defender, and a shot-blocker Once Bogut returns, and if he can remain healthy going into the playoffs, the Warriors should not only make the playoffs for the first time since their “We Believe” playoff run in 2007, but make some noise with their electric offensive and deafening home crowd.

In the East? The Milwaukee Bucks have certainly claimed a piece of this title, starting off the season off with a 11-9 record, but the New York Knicks have to the the team to claim this the “surprise team” title at this spot. Now, the New York Knicks currently sit at 17-5. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd have been fantastic at times dictating this offense. Between Felton’s pick and rolls with Tyson Chandler, and Jason Kidd’s ability to draw fouls on three-point attempts, the Knicks’ point guards have been a huge upgrade over last season’s Baron Davis/Raymond Felton/Jeremy Lin pu-pu platter. Ronnie Brewer has made some huge knick-knack plays on the defensive end, whether it be tipping passes, keeping possessions alive, and getting sneaky rebounds, Brewer have been everything Fields was in his rookie season, all while shooting a career high from three-point range.

Carmelo Anthony has played really well. After a season where Anthony was placed into so many roles, turned into the scapegoat, and then lived up to his price tag in the final 20 games, Anthony has fully committed to the defensive side of the ball. Not only that, Anthony has fully committed to the power forward position as well, playing inside out, as opposed to his outside in style when he plays small forward. According to hoopdata.com, Anthony has taken more shots per game at the rim this season compared to last, while simultaneously decreased his shot attempts from 16 to 23 feet. Along with that, Anthony has found himself in the top 10 of free-throw attempts per game with close to 8 per game. All of those offensive numbers, combined with an increased efforts on the defensive end, Anthony has started this season on an MVP (he’s not going to win it) pace, and hopefully he doesn’t cool off.

Tyson Chandler has been the best player for the New York Knicks, no question. His regular season stats don’t suggest it (12.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 22.63 PER), but he’s been doing everything for this team. First, he’s an automatic two points, shooting close to 70% from the field, and close to 72% on pick and rolls, according to Synergy. His defensive numbers don’t exactly resemble Dwight Howard’s numbers in his Orlando tenure, but to this Knicks team, he’s just as important. On the offensive end, he gives New York multiple extra possessions per game, but the biggest thing that stands out about Chandler’s offensive contribution? New York has been 19 points better with Chandler on the court, according to 82games.com

The impact of the offseason acquisitions (namely Kidd, Felton, and Brewer), combined with the consistent play from Chandler and Anthony have led the Knicks to an early lead in the Eastern Conference. Let us not forget that the NBA season is not a sprint, but a race. What’s the most intriguing thing about New York is that, not only do they have a stellar record to start the season, but also, they’re winning with three-point shooting, ranking third in three-point field goals. What’s even more odd is that the Knicks have won, even while ranking 28th in total rebound rate and getting outrebounded on a nightly basis.

The Knicks are looking great. Compared to last season, New York’s ball movement looks improved, the defensive rotations look great, and players labeled selfish in their past (Anthony, J.R. Smith), have been making the extra passes, and finding the open man for easier shots. Even with this great play, the veterans leading the charge, the padded rotation (a rotation feels like it could be 10-11 deep), and an ever-so-growing home-court advantage (the Knicks are currently undefeated at home this season), I still feel there’s a ton of questions that need to be answered.

Are we ready for a Raymond Felton decline?

I’m not, but like many (including myself) have been saying: Raymond Felton isn’t a great point guard. He enjoys the New York limelight, and his connections with Tyson Chandler on pick and rolls have been magical at times (go back to the Dallas game), but he’s slowly going back to old Raymond Felton. For starters: Felton now has more field goal attempts than points for this season. That’s not good. He’s still shooting 40% from three, but his true shooting percentage is just a meager 49%. His shooting numbers will pewter around the 40-42 percent area, but once his three-point percentage lowers around 35, and defenders realize he loves to shoot jumpers, I wouldn’t be shocked to see some slight decline in Felton’s production.

Will we ever see Marcus Camby?

Marcus Camby was expected to be the backup center for this team. When Chandler leaves, we get Camby’s rebounding and shot blocking in his place. 23 games later, Camby has played 6 games, and 46 total minutes in his second New York tenure. An MRI detected plantar fasciitis, and we haven’t heard much since. While I love Rasheed Wallace’s daily antics and rapid three-point shooting, I would much rather have Camby back to spell some of Wallace’s minutes.

This leads me to one big question…

How is Iman Shumpert going to factor in the rotation when he returns?

The Amar’e injury is the larger dilemma in Gotham, but the Knicks have the point guards to accommodate him on the offensive end, and big bodies to help him (enough) on the defensive end. Stoudemire will have issues on the defensive end, but for the most part, he will walk into the Knicks’ rotation as the second-best scoring option. If he could be protected on the defensive end, the Knicks will suffice for the most part.

Iman Shumpert is an interesting player. He’s was a good defensive guard, but coming off an ACL injury, it’s tough to imagining him being the same defender he was in his rookie season (and even then, Shump was a tad overrated). On offense, he isn’t a point guard in the sense of creating shots for others, and he isn’t a shooting guard because he simply cannot shoot the ball (or showed that he could in his rookie season). His best backcourt is probably Jason Kidd, thanks to his ability to shoot jumpers, but Raymond Felton? Pablo Prigioni? Tough to imagine how it fits. J.R. Smith is an interesting player to pair with Shumpert with his ability to shoot and handle, but for now, Shumpert’s return to the roster will be huge for New York’s season.

Unlike last season, this Knicks team has some depth, and veterans who don’t let their confidence waiver. Jason Kidd, who many (including me) said was done, has been a revelation at the shooting guard position, and hopefully he continues this pace. Whatever goes down, the Knicks have made the correct moves to contend and battle in the East, and with wins over Miami, this team’s confidence, I would imagine, is through the roof. The playoffs are a completely different monster, but with steady point guard play, a defensive mindset, and Carmelo Anthony, I’m both excited and intrigued to see what the Knicks will do moving forward.

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Fantasy Basketball: Injuries, Rookies, and Omer

Week one of fantasy basketball is in the books, and we already have plenty of talking points. Let’s begin with the injuries…

1. Steve Nash has a small frature in his left leg, and has been downgraded to out for at least the next week. Not as huge news as you would think, Nash will still produce in this offense once the starting lineup develops more chemistry. I don’t recommend dropping Nash, but if you have another player you can drop, drop him and get some point guard help.

Nash Replacements

  • Jordan Crawford: No John Wall. Crawford should get a large bulk of shots for Washington.
  • Jose Calderon: With KLOE injured, Calderon will get a ton of assists.
  • Kemba Walker: Catch him while he’s on this hotstreak. He’ll score and provide some assists.
  • George Hill: Not a fan, but he’s currently averaging 12.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.8 assists

2. Brandon Rush tore his ACL against Memphis, and will miss the remainder of the season. Tough break for Brandon Rush, but for Rush owners, you can replace him, and you probably didn’t invest a high draft pick in getting him. Replacing him won’t be as tough, and I have the perfect guys to do it

Rush Replacements 

  • Jason Terry: Terry is still getting adjusted to Boston, but if he’s available, he should provide similar numbers
  • Dion Waiters: The rookie looked good, and after Kyrie Irving, he’s the next best scorer.
  • Mike Dunleavy: He’s on fire right now. He’ll replace Rush’s three-point production.

3. Danny Granger is out for the next three months, after work on his injured knee. The work included an injection to treat ” treat patellar tendinosis in his left knee.” Odds are, you picked Danny Granger in the fourth or fifth round, and there’s no one in free agency who you can provide Granger’s production. Even so, let’s look at some of the players you can pick up to replace Granger

Granger replacements

  • Kawhi Leonard: Leonard is starting for San Antonio, and should give you Granger’s rebounding
  • Dorrell Wright: Solid shooter, and the best wing option for the Sixers. Replaces Granger’s threes.
  • O.J. Mayo: Giving Dallas 21.5 points per game. Take him while he’s hot.

Spotlight: Omer Asik, Center, Houston Rockets

Omer Asik should be owned in all leagues for one reason: He’s going to give you rebounding. In his first three games this season, Asik has averaged 14.3 rebounds per game. Is it sustainable? Probably not, but Asik will give you between 9 to 11 rebounds per game. He’s not going to give you a bevy of scoring, but with James Harden and Jeremy Lin, Asik will be in a ton of pick and rolls. If Asik could average 8.0 points, Asik will be well worth the pick up. I recommend him for anyone who has a center you don’t trust (Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bynum, JaVale McGee).

Fantasy Draft Results And Predictions

My name is Quentin Haynes, and every week, I’m going to update you guys with some fantasy basketball talk. This past Monday, the members of Hoop City Blog (including myself) took part in an eight team draft. After the picks were settled, It seemed like the smart ideas to throw out some random predictions. First, let’s look at the results of the draft (Click the chart to see the picks):

Best Pick: James Harden (2nd round)

I love James Harden on Houston. Not only should he get an increased workload, but I also feel like Harden’s game will become more balanced. Harden could average around 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists this upcoming season, and that warrants a top 6 status to me. Getting Harden in the second round after the Rockets move was a great pick.

Biggest Steal: Blake Griffin (5th round, pick 6)

Blake Griffin isn’t a top 10 player in real life, but man is he a fantasy god. Not only will Blake provide 20-12 this season, but he helps the field goal percentage, as well as gives you 3.0 to 3.5 assists per game. The free throw shooting is a huge concern, but overall, Griffin shouldn’t have fell past the third round, due to all the things he provides.

Biggest Reach: Dirk Nowitzki (3rd round, pick 5)

Dirk is great, but third round? He’s going to give you 20 points and 40% shooting from three, but that’s really it. The next five players after him (Carmelo Anthony, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, and Greg Monroe) all feel like better picks at this point and time. With Dirk missing the first six weeks, that’s not good either. All in all, Dirk feels more like a 5th or 6th round pick.

Now….here’s some predictions for how this fantasy season will play out.

Best Overall Roster: Darkstafarian

I’m not picking my team, due to the fact I have LeBron James. So how about the team with Kevin Durant? Not only does Darkstafarian have Durant, but solid passing (Ty Lawson & Steve Nash), great rebounding (Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe, Joakim Noah, Nene), and some an electric rookie in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. If MKG could jump into the rookie of the year race, then this team becomes even better.

Field Goal Percentage: Tip Your Waiters

A team full of post players. There’s a legitimate chance that Andrew Bynum, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Andrew Bogut all shoot upwards of 50% from the field. With Harden gone from Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook has a chance to increase his numbers as well.

Free Throw Percentage: YellingAtChalmers

Other than Blake Griffin, this team is full of solid free throw shooters. Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge, and even David Lee. This stat will be up in the air (FT% is so random, at times) but with four solid free-throw shooters, plus guys like Tony Parker and Arron Affalo, my money is on YellingAtChalmers.

3-point Shots Made: Darkostafarian

Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson, Steve Nash and Paul George should be enough to win this stat. Outside of those four, J.R. Smith will help (or hurt) the stat, and Brandon Knight will quietly provide some threes as well.

Points Scored: Welcome Unibrow

Quietly, this team has a ton of scoring. Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Rudy Gay, and Pau Gasol could all average somewhere between 18 to 21 points a night. With those four, and two scoring gems in Luol Deng and Mo Williams, I could see this team running away with the points scored title.

Total Rebounds: Melo Fellow

Not to be bias, but LeBron and Iguodala will provide 6-7 rebounds, and after that? My roster is full of double digit rebounders. Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Kevin Garnett, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, and (maybe) Brook Lopez. If my team can remain healthy, the rebounding title should be mine.

Assists: Dac City Bitch

Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Mike Conley, and Raymond Felton. Those four alone should help Dac win the assists title with ease. If Curry can stay healthy, this should be a lock.

Steals: Dac City Bitch

Again, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Mike Conley. All three could rank 1-2-3 in the steals category this season if Curry decides this is the season to stay healthy.

Blocked Shots : Tip Your Waiters

It’s a size thing. DeMarcus Cousins could block shots, Andrew Bogut could block shots, and Andrew Bynum can also block shots. I picked this team because of Anthony Davis. There’s a good chance Davis averages somewhere between 1.6 and 2.5 blocks per game, and that could have this team sweep through in the blocks department.

Turnovers: Dac City Bitch

The good (assits and steals category) will help this team, but Felton turns the ball over a ton, and Al Jefferson, Kobe Bryant, and Stephen Curry do also.